Archives for posts with tag: Isle Royale

I had a real good night’s sleep at Lane Cove. The lapping of wavelets made for a soothing background and there were no moosely incursions into my dreamland. I fixed a couple of packets of oatmeal for breakfast and had a cup of coffee as well, just because I wanted to. Other than the chatter and antics of squirrels I saw and heard no wildlife as I got my camp packed away. I discovered another piece of inadvertent litter – someone had lost a short section of paracord. I tied it onto my pack. It’s really gratifying to go to a place that has almost no litter so I wanted to remove what I found, no matter how it got there. My collection efforts totaled up at the paracord, a piece of dental floss collected at Lake Richie, a corner piece of a Clifbar wrapper found near Windigo and the FroggToggs found between Huginnin and the Minong junction. Everything but the paracord was already disposed of in one way or another. The paracord could be my LNT souvenir.  I snapped a couple of quick pictures of the ultra smooth water and scenery and headed out.

DSC01385 DSC01386 DSC01388

The trail from the Greenstone down to Lane Cove has switchbacks. That makes it unique on Isle Royale. No other trail section has enough sudden elevation change to need more than one or two tiny switchbacks. This trail has several long ones. Maybe that’s why people think that it’s tough. It isn’t. I left camp about 9:15. By 10:30 I was standing on the Greenstone ridge trail. I didn’t have to stop to rest a single time. Gimpy ankle and all I just kept a slow steady pace and it was shockingly easy. I took a short moment to savor the feeling of conquering the climb so handily and then began to descend the south side of the ridge. I would not see the north side of the island again on this trip.

Upon crossing the Greenstone, the trail I was following changed names from Lane Cove Trail to Mount Franklin Trail.  As I followed its gradual path downwards I passed first a pair and then a single hiker who were on their way outward bound.  After about 1.5 more miles I came to a junction and hung a left to follow Tobin Harbor Trail.  Tobin Harbor is long and narrow (about 5 miles long, yet narrow enough that you can see detail on the opposite shore, which gradually gets further away as one presses eastward).  The trail follows along right beside the water for most of the 3 mile length that I followed it until I came to Rock Harbor.

DSC01393 DSC01396

The area was pretty deserted.  First, I went down to the dock area where I saw a couple of park employees working busily on season end tasks.  No rangers around.  The dockside office was closed for the season and had been emptied out of merchandise; sheets were hung over shelves and counters.  The sun was out and the weather was very pleasant so I just sat around for a bit and savored it.  Then I strolled over to the campsite area.



As I followed the gravel pathway to the campsite, I passed the ranger station, ranger quarters and the closed-for-the-season bathroom, laundry, and shower facility.

The camp area was also empty of people.  I poked around a couple of the shelters and then unslung my pack and claimed shelter #2 by dint of sitting down at the picnic table outside of it and kicking up my feet for a short break.  Then I dug around in my pack and found my electronics bag.  After stashing my pack inside the screen enclosed shelter I took the Newtrent down to the dockside ranger office and plugged it up to charge.  Since there was absolutely no one around I left it there.  I may have mentioned this before, but in case you missed it, here’s a hiker fact for you:  most hikers won’t steal stuff.  All moral and ethical standards aside, nobody wants to add to their pack weight.


I headed back up towards the campsite area and was stopped short by the sight of a fox just sniffing and snorting around in the grass outside the ranger station.  I snapped a couple of pics of the semi-tame little beast and then finished my short trek.


It was sort of lunch time so I decided to do that.  I was still a bit couscous rich so I got out the stove and boiled some water for a hot meal.  Shortly after my stove was lit, guess who showed up?  Hungry fox.  He approached the picnic table several times from different directions, never hostile and with obvious caution tempered by the thought of an easy meal.  I gently shooed him (it was a he) away and poured the now-boiling water into my gallon freezer bag of couscous.  After waiting the requisite 10 minutes I cracked open my freezer bag and started to chow down.  And guess who was back?  He sauntered through the campsite four different times while I ate.  He never did the ‘Oh-I-am-starving-please-feed-me-and-save-my-life,-oh-great-one’ that domestic dogs are known so well for pulling off.  This was more of a ‘I-just-want-to-be-sure-this-campsite-remains-clean-so-I-patrol-regularly’ sort of saunter.  I studiously ignored his overtures and ate my lunch.  Then I secured my pack inside the shelter and took all my trash down to the dock and placed it in the dumpster there.  It being end-of-season and all, there was no reason not to – this was going to be the last dumpster leaving the island and it was going to be 1/3 full at best.  No trash for you, Mr. Fox.  I checked the Newtrent – still not charged.  It had been pretty dead.

DSC01404 DSC01405

Back at the shelter I hung up my clothesline and did some laundry.  There is a single faucet of potable water at the edge of the campsite and I was getting water there for my washing.  Chlorinated, but no filtering required.  Good enough for laundry.  I drank the water in my bladder – Lake Superior tastes better than the chlorinated stuff.

Mid-afternoon a few more people showed up.  Gary, whom I’d met at the trail junction two days prior, wound up in shelter #3 beside me.  A pair of guys who I later learned were Tom and Joe had moved into shelter #1 on the other side of me.  Joe had fallen and broken his nose on the Tobin Harbor trail earlier in the day.  Nothing in sight to trip on according to his recounting of the event and yet – broken nose.  Hey, we all have those moments.  I tend to like the company of people who don’t seek a thousand excuses for a fuck-up.  Joe owned his nose-shattering trip by frankly admitting that he wasn’t paying close attention to his feet despite knowing better and,’Wham!  That rock just smacked me right in the nose!’  The nose in question was swollen quite a bit and looked painful.  You’re on an island several hours away from the nearest town, there’s no boat even coming by today, and you break your nose.  What do you do?  If you’re a tough old bird from Jersey, you suck it up and try to have a good time anyway.  Joe had a DeLorme Inreach, and I got to look it over.  Pretty cool unit.  The InReach has real-time two-way satellite text messaging.   And GPS.  And emergency feature similar to the Spot.  The subscription fees aren’t that heavy, either.  And plans include unlimited usage of the 40ish preloaded text messages.  All in all, I find it to be pretty impressive.


Around 5PM I fetched the mostly charged Newtrent from dockside, plugged my mostly dead phone up to it, twitched the very touchy cable a dozen times to get the phone to start charging and left it inside the shelter to do its thing while I cooked dinner (last of the couscous), took down my dry clothing, and generally puttered about for an hour or so.  Then I set up my bedding all by myself in this shelter that would hold 8 people and settled down to read myself to sleep.









I heard several moose making romantic noises during the night but fortunately none of them decided to hump my tent so that worked out just great on my end. I got up in the middle of the night for a quick pee and was astounded by the stars overhead. It’s a rare occasion when I am in a place that has zero light pollution to ruin the celestial view. It always astonishes me anew when I see the stars in their full glory.

The night was cool and clear so I quickly crawled back into my bedding and snuggled down for some good snoozing. Warming up after being out in cold air always feels great and makes it easy to go back to sleep.

I rolled out of bed before light and found that my tent was absolutely drenched with dew and condensation. Fuck fuck fuck, this was bad. I mean it was really soaked. The combination of elevation and humidity had conspired to make one hell of a mess for me to clean up.

It took over a hour to get it sort of dry. I had to stop and dash/waddle for the privy mid-process. My bowels simply would not wait. This was a NOW event. I made it, barely.  Dignity, what dignity?   After, I went back to squeegeeing the tent – it did not noticeably dry in my absence. The tent was nowhere near this wet even when it got rained on. I wanted to just scream WTF at the sky. I was finally packed and hiking about 9:30. East Chickenbone easily wins the “Worst campsite, do not stay here” award for Isle Royale. Consider yourself warned.

I considered stopping for some more trail puddle water as I had drunk about half of my water overnight. Then I slipped in said puddle and muddied it. I met a gent named Gary at the puddle (junction with trail to West Chickenbone) and stopped to chat for a bit. He had blisters and was trying to decided whether he should alter his hiking plans. I had just finished going through the same evaluation process. On the one hand, I was a day ahead and could definitely make my boat rendezvous despite my ankle situation. On the other hand every mile that I walked on my ankle was making it worse and who needs to aggravate a debilitating injury? Every step was sending a jolt of pain through my ankle and up my shin. In the end the decision was actually kind of simple. I was here to see the island by hiking the trails. My body was capable of continuing despite the condition of my ankle. I’d rather hike to Lane Cove and be carried out by a troop of girl scouts than skip it because I was in a little discomfort from an old injury. Take Advil. Press on.

I hit the Greenstone and headed east. It was pretty nice scenery and the trail wasn’t that tough. Lots of good views. I stopped for lunch at the Ojibway fire tower and while I stuffed down ground beef and tortillas two guys came in from the direction of Lane Cove. I asked and they’d spent the night at Lane Cove. They said that the trail wasn’t very tough, which I found reassuring.

DSC01309 DSC01313


The Fall colors were really showing well on the foliage and I enjoyed the hike quite a bit despite my painful hobble.  In places I could see Lake Superior to both the North and South simply by turning my head left or right.  Many small flowers were still in bloom.

DSC01308 DSC01316 DSC01320 DSC01321 DSC01324 DSC01327 DSC01335 DSC01343


I was running low on water when I came to the turnoff to Lane Cove. The temp was very agreeable, probably 60 degrees. I wasn’t worried at all – I could probably do 10 miles without water like this and I only had a couple of miles to go – downhill. I crossed a few low places and passed a large beaver dam, but there were bridges and my progress was swift and easy. I arrived at Lane Cove by 15:00.


I chose site #4 but all 5 sites were just great.  The water was clear, calm and beautiful.  Every campsite has a great view of the cove but I really did like #4 the best.  I was blessed with the presence of a half dozen Mergansers who were alternately fishing and hanging out on a shoreside log. On my 3rd attempt I got some pics and video.

DSC01360 DSC01361 DSC01362 DSC01382

I was the only person there and I really enjoyed the serenity. I hung up the tent and let the last moisture dry from it before setting up camp. Dinner was Sweet and Sour Pork with Rice. Pretty good. I always worry about beans and rice rehydrating properly but the meals I brought performed flawlessly.

I turned in at sunset, already feeling a little nostalgic. The next night would be spent in Rock Harbor and I would surely see lots of people, harbingers of the end of this trip.  Blech.


I woke up to a calm setting and enjoyed the quiet while going about my morning routine.

Every campsite had one guaranteed amenity: a privy. The privies and shelters are all liberally decorated with graffiti. People MUST leave their mark. I greatly prefer graffiti to litter. It is often amusing and I seldom trip over it. This privy had some notes that drew my eye.

2006: Cairns are litter! Do not alter nature. All cairns must be destroyed!
2007: 93 cairns scattered. Work continues.
2008: 58 cairns down and counting!
2009: Got laid. I don’t care about cairns any more. Beautiful campsite.

My laundry from the previous day was mostly dry but I elected to wear my sleeping socks to hike in and let my wool socks dry more. I strapped them outside my pack.

My right ankle was very sore and stiff. I couldn’t observe any actual benefit from my trouble of elevating it to sleep. My left foot was feeling better, though. Still minor soreness but much better than recently. More like the memory of soreness than actually hurting.

I set out on the trail around 9:15 under cloudy skies and a temp that seemed to be in the mid 40’s.  The lake was really gorgeous.


The trail was very beautiful. The pattern of my hike on this day was to have long walks on stony ridges broken up by dips into lowland wooded areas between the ridges. There would be some sort of muck or water crossing usually involved in this but these had taken on almost a ritual significance at this point.

DSC01252 DSC01259 DSC01262 DSC01270

Each crossing of muck represented an expected milestone of sorts. I could tightrope walk a rotten log or fallen tree or hopscotch across almost submerged rocks without planning or concern. These were my crossings and they were meant to be crossed by me. It was utterly beyond consideration that I would slip or fall, that a chosen path would fail to lead all the way across, that a decades-old rotting log would collapse. Anathema!  I crossed because this was how things worked here in the world of Tom hikes Isle Royale.

The day was tough on my ankle but it was shorter miles than the day before. I had passed the longest mileage days of my trip; maybe the shorter miles would let the ankle recover. Right? I mean, right!

I lunched on a garlic summer sausage and some hard cheese as I sat on an open ridge high above my surroundings. It was way too much food so I packed away the remaining portion for dinner.

I arrived at Todd Harbor at 4 PM and found a couple of guys in one of the shelters. I had to ask if there was a directory sign for this campsite. I guess that such a high percentage of the users come in from the opposite direction that I entered from that it was deemed there was no need to put signage on the trail that enters from the west. I walked through to the middle, found the signage and then turned back around and went back to site #1, which I had passed on my way in.  I wanted to be on the periphery, away from any accidental human contact. Need something? Sure, I’ll help. Otherwise, leave me be and I will do the same for you. It worked. I didn’t see or hear them again until I passed their shelter on my way out the next morning and faintly caught the buzz of a snore over the sounds of my passage.

As I went about the act of setting up camp I made it a priority to get my clothesline up early. Airing out can really cut down on clothing odor if you have the time to do it. There was a very nice breeze coming off the harbor and I had time. I certainly had excess stink to be rid of. I changed into my laundered garments from the day before and hung up my worn stuff to air. Then I headed over to the tent pad and started setting up the tent.

It doesn’t take me much time to set up our double rainbow tent. First I assemble the single ridge pole and slide it into its sleeve on the tent. That takes around 2 minutes total. Then I place the very floppy partially assembled tent on top of the Tyvek that we use for ground cloth and stake it down. After hat takes 3 minutes or less. So I am done in 5 minutes or less.

In the time that I set up my tent and put all of my gear into it I was interrupted not once, but twice by moose.  I’d not seen a moose the whole time I had been on the island despite being nearly trampled by them cavorting through my campsite at Feldtmann Lake.  Elusive, ephemeral, and stealthy are all words that do not describe moose.

Finally I got to see them.  It was about like I remembered:  mostly just hoping that they stay over there and leave me alone over here.  Pics, such as they are:

DSC01279 DSC01284


I ate the remainder of my garlic sausage and cheese for dinner.  I hated the idea of leaving the greasy sausage kicking around open and half eaten in a gallon ziploc bag so this was how I fixed that.  (Emptied Ziplocs also happen to make great trash bags.)

There’s a mine close to Todd Harbor but I declined to go see it.  My ankle was really throbbing.  All day while I hiked ridges, every one of them leaned the same way – to the right.  So I put extra stress on the lame ankle all day and it just wasn’t happy about that.  And it was talking pretty loud at this point:  “Do not walk on me, putz!”  11.9 miles was enough.

I went down to get water and had some minor difficulty.  The wind was up and the waves were rolling in pretty good and there was no good place to stay dry while getting water.  I opted for getting about 1.5 liters and keeping my feet dry and just called it good.  I could always get more in the morning if I wanted.


I turned in and slept kind of chilly again.  That breeze coming off the harbor was blowing right into every vent in my tent and seemed to find ways to get to me no matter what.  Eventually I laid stuff stacks against all the vents by my head and blocked them up successfully.  After that I slept quite well.





I woke up to cloudy skies and a stiff breeze coming off the lake.  My washed clothing was pretty dry on the line so I got changed before cooking breakfast.  I don’t remember if I have talked about cooking meals so this seems like about as good of a time as any to do so.  When planning my meals I decided to adhere to a similar meal structure as what we used when hiking on the AT.  Cold lunches and hot breakfasts and dinners.  The hot meals consisted 100% of things that I could prepare by adding boiling water and waiting.  To some folks that might sound bad or short on variety but it was pretty good to me.  The one piece of advice I can offer regarding prepping meals like this is to go a bit short on the water and a bit long on the wait time.   If packet directions say 2 cups of water and wait 8 minutes then I use 1 1/2 cups of water and wait 19 minutes before eating.    The biggest advantage that these meals had for me over the AT hike is that there was no sharing – I ate two portions for most of my meals because of this.  The calories were welcome.

This morning I ate a Mountain House Breakfast Scramble and it was pretty tasty.  I was packed up and on the trail by 9:15.

My left foot was very sore in the flesh across the top of the top of the tarsal area behind the toes.  Each time I lifted that foot just the weight of the shoe pressing down on the sore area nade me want to wince.  My right ankle was still just as sore but no worse and definitely less painful.   Here’s a truth.  Sore body parts ho hand in hand with prolonged physical activity.  Either you deal or you don’t.   With much internal whining I dealt.

Shortly after leaving camp I spotted another apple tree at the edge of a clearing that once housed the headquarters of a lumber operation on the island.   Then I saw a fox that darted quickly off the trail and into underbrush.    No fox pic –  I was way too slow.


The trail from Siskiwit Bay to Feldtmann Lake picks up and follows the Feldtmann ridge and makes for some pretty decent scenery in places.  At the end of the summer it also makes for some VERY overgrown trail in other places.  I could have been 10 feet from a moose and never have seen it.  The trail was mainly evident in these places because it was the path of least resistance – and most trails on Isle Royale tend to go in the shortest path to their destination.   Makes it a lot easier to know you’re still on the trail.  You didn’t turn; the trail didn’t turn.   You are still on the trail.



I did see a tiny little bit of falling water as I ascended Feldtmann Ridge.   There is little flowing water on the island so the was notable.


Wolf scat and tracks were things I was seeing daily.  I have a lot of pictures of poop on my phone.  I assure you that I left most of the scat unrecorded.   There are places where you have to play hopscotch to avoid it.



Since there’s no hunting of the moose and no collecting allowed  it’s not uncommon to see where someone has found a shed and left it trailside.  They are particularly common at the trail junctions.


As I made my way further West along the trail I kept my eyes open for a lookout tower. This would be about halfway along my planned miles for the day (10.2 to Feldtmann Lake) and where I intended to have lunch. I spotted a collapsed wooden structure and made a mental note to let National Geographic know it was time to update the map…

I kept moving and about 15 minutes later encountered the actual watch tower. It wasn’t much of a lunch spot mainly due to cloudy skies and a stiff westerly wind. I kept moving and had an Oatmeal, Raisin and Walnut Clifbar to keep my energy level up.

As I continued to progress westward the wind was blowing directly into my face very steadily. I spotted what was either a small hawk or a large falcon soaring above the grassy ridge more than once as I moved along. The wind, though mildly annoying due to its speed and persistence, turned out to be fortuitous.

Q: How do find a unique wolf?

A: U nique up on him!

Which is exactly what happened, though not through any active connivance on my part. The wind just happened to be perfectly directed and strong enough that my scent did not precede my presence. It was also causing a good bit of noise as it ruffled the acres of tall grass on the ridge. So the sounds of my footsteps apparently passed unnoticed.

The first thing that I spotted was a weird motion in the grass. I actually took a couple of more steps trying to see what it was, if anything before I saw it again and experienced that moment of uncertainty while my brain tried to definitely categorize the shape and motion into certainty and my heart sped up with the hope that this would be one of those rare sightings that you hear about but don’t expect to actually experience yourself. I whipped out my phone as quietly as I could. The activity in the pictures is identical to what drew my attention. See if you can spot it.





And now, since it’s so hard to spot in the pics, even for me, here’s what drew my eye:


I watched for a good twenty seconds/years.  It was a small wolf, but definitely a wolf.  The muzzle was broader than I expected and the coloring was not grey at all.  This guy was reddish-brown.

The reason for the odd head-bobbing motion that got my attention was that he was eating berries.  I snapped photos as fast as my phone would and then did the right thing:  scared the wolf away.  It’s important that wildlife remains wild, especially in sanctuaries such as this.  Encounters with humans, no matter how innocently they occur, should not be encouraged.  I raised my trekking poles high and yelled at the top of my lungs to startle him as much as possible.

And just in case you’re wondering, no I was not afraid.  I estimated this guy to be in the range of 35-40 pounds.  He was as best I could determine, alone.  Predators like to take on prey on terms that the predator establishes.  In general, if you startle a predator they run.  At least initially.  I’d be MUCH more worried to discover a wolf following me than to sneak up on one and startle it.  Wolves make their living by following things – and then eating them.  So I wasn’t afraid – I just wanted to help keep the wolf from becoming too comfortable around humans.

I snapped a couple of more shots as he made his exit, bouncing along the trail.


20140919_130132(0) 20140919_130132 20140919_130133


And thus ended the wolf encounter.


Shortly after, I came to a fantastic view of Feldtmann Lake.  The trail abruptly descends from the high plains-like ridge through forest and bog to the campsite, but before it does, there is a fantastic view of the lake several hundred feet below you.

I made the descent with some trouble as my left foot was really hurting at this point and got to the Feldtmann Lake campsite pretty quickly. I chose site #2 which had ample room for setup and a good view right onto the lakeshore. It was not yet 14:00 when I set up my tent – a very early day. However I was pretty well done in. I just wanted my foot to feel better and to potter around a bit. As I set up the tent I was considering taking a .8 mile excursion to Rainbow Cove. With all the wind from the west the surf sounded like it was right beside me. Then raindrops began to fall. I scooted my ass inside my tent and scratched the excursion right off the list. I had had enough wet clothes for a bit.


I ate a cold dinner of beef jerky, corn chips and Clifbar. Mmm, junkfood. Finished off both the jerky and the corn chips, which needed doing anyway.

The mercury dropped pretty strongly; it felt like it was in the 30’s again. I slept with my clothes on and was pretty comfy in that regard.

I was NOT comfy with the moose activity though. It seemed like every 15 minutes a moose went tramping through the campsite making lovelorn noises along the way. Whistling, grunting, splashing, stomping, chomping and tramping. Every few minutes. I swear it was like a regular ungulate highway. I was genuinely concerned that one would step on or trip over the tent.

Between sporadic rain, steady wind and darkness I really just didn’t care to look outside the tent to see what was going on and I didn’t. I would have loved some moose pics but I knew I wouldn’t get any in those conditions and I figured not being trampled to death by a half ton rutting herbivore would do as a nice alternative.

In the morning I looked and no moose tracks were closer than 20 feet to the tent. So maybe I was being a bit of a drama queen. Or maybe they just didn’t leave tracks when they were standing outside the tent. Who’s to say?

I slept well at South Lake Desor and awoke to find that the weather did not exactly match my expectations. The ten day forecast, which I had been monitoring closely in the days prior to my advent on the isle had been for lows in the 40’s and highs in the 50’s. In short, perfect hiking temps.

My shirt, my pants, my underwear and my shoes were all crusted with a thin sheet of ice when I emerged from the tent to see how much they had dried overnight. There was a layer of frosty ice on the toes of my shoes. The tent itself was filled with condensation over the entire interior and dew/frost covered on the outside. Without exaggeration it was far wetter than the day before when I had packed up in light rain. My socks – the poor things were holding so much water in the wool that they were still so wet that no ice had formed on them. As I assessed the state of my union I could hear loons calling from the lake.

To top things off for this rocky start, my right ankle hurt more than when I had gone to bed the night before and I had a raging case of chapped arse from hiking 15 miles in wet clothes.

On the bright side it wasn’t raining; I could get my tent good and dry with a little time. And my first aid/hygiene kit included a small container of Gold Bond powder, just for this happt occasion. That stuff can usually really improve some chub rub and make your day better.

I doctored my poor sore arse cheeks and then steeled myself for what needed to be done. I shed my sleeping clothes and put on all my icy wet gear from the clothesline. Best way to warm and dry it at this point.

I wiped the tent down, inside and out, with my kitchen shammy. Then I started breakfast. Hot oatmeal was joined on this day by hot coffee. I brought enough coffee packets to have it daily but until now I had abstained. This was a good time for hot coffee.

Great thing about my hiking clothes – they dry pretty well and quickly from body heat. Once the initial chill was off they got comfy fairly quickly. The only low pqiint was the socks. I brought two pairs of socks for this trip. One for hiking and one for sleeping. Now I could always change up that designation but I chose them with this in mind. Hiking socks: Darn Tough, boot cut, high wool content. They could take a week of hiking and still not stink. Wool will keep you warm even when wet. Sleeping socks: Darn Tough, boot cut, Coolmax – zero wool. They’re great for sleeping because they wick really well and keep my feet from getting too hot while still providing warmth and comfort. The hiking socks were just hoing to be wet today and that was that.

In no rush, I took my time and got the tent squared away properly and felt good knowing that at the end of the day I wouldn’t be pulling it out wet. I pulled out of camp around 9:35, with the intent of going to Siskiwit Bay. As I departed a pair of crows flew overhead; cawing loudly. The squirrel mafia was nowhere to be seen.

The mushrooms that can be found on Isle Royale astounded me on this day. My journey took me through a variety of different microclimates and many of these areas hosted numerous fungi, often larger than I thought to see in this harsh area. A few are pictured here but I took over 50 photos – and that’s just what was trailside that I didn’t miss (I miss obvious things all the time).




Departing the Greenstone Ridge I took the Island Mine trail southward. I planned to have lunch at the Island Mine campsite if it was a good site. It turned out that it wasn’t. I kept moving. About 1/4 mile after Island Mine I chose a semi-sunny rock and laid out a lunch of ground beef and tortillas.

The island mine itself is right by the trail so I climbed the miunds of tailings and took a brief look around. I also found a historical well noted on my map – it’s dry these days.

The trail elevation steadily decreased until I found myself back at lake level. To someone who grew up close enough to the Gulf of Mexico that summer expeditions for a weekend or even a week here and there were always within reach (remember $.79/gal gasoline) it’s very odd to walk along the shore of Lake Superior, where the sand is grey and composed of rock particles, the water is chillingly cold and fresh, and water depth may plunge over a hundred feet right beside the shore.

The trail involved a LOT of boardwalk as I progressed. And several places where I had to just go walk on the rocky sand beach because the trail had been consumed in spots by marsh. The sun was out and a light breeze played amongst the scrub trees and grass as I approached the finish of my miles for the day. My left foot was now sore on the top side down by the toes and each time I lifted my foot the very minor weigh of the shoe would make me wince. My right foot no longer had pain in the tarsal area but the ankle was hurting a bit more.

After following the waterline for quite a distance the trail turned inland for a bit and then arrived at Siskiwit Bay campsite. This was another deluxe campsite equipped with picnic tables at every site. As I went down the site trail I spotted moose tracks right there in camp. I wound up at site #2 as I found site #1 was already occupied by a couple who were using hammocks as their sleep system.

I hung up my ground tarp and tent on my clothesline to allow them to dry any remaining moisture from the day’s icy start. Then I went down to the pier to fetch some water. On the way I noticed an apple tree, complete with ripe apples. I knocked one down with my trekking pole and stashed it in a pocket. Good eating. Fresh fruit is a real treat in situations like this.

I filled my water bladder completely full and headed back to my campsite. Then I got out the Dr. Bronners and proceeded to wash the muddiest and nastiest of my trail clothing including my still-damp socks. With all the items wrung out I draped them over the clothesline and got the tent set up while wearing my sleeping clothes.

Then I washed me. The water was ungodly cold. But I needed it. I poured enough on myself to get wet and lathered up with Dr Bronners. Then I rinsed and repeated the process. Declaring the process complete, I dried as well as I could with my tiny little shammy cloth and put clothes back on. When the shivering stopped I felt much much better. That cleaning was due.

I headed back down to the pier area to refill my emptied water bladder and detoured down by the fire pit on my way and discovered where someone had put a dozen apples of various sizes and ripeness on the picnic table there. I selected a very small one that looked somewhat ripe and bit into it. SOUR! I ate it with gusto.

I made my way back to my tent and cooked dinner: Mountain House lasagna. Tasty but the marinara was a little sweet to my taste. Real cheese in there.

I found another unexpected luxury when I visited the privy. It was stocked. Unheard of!

Belly full and butt clean, I crawled into bed and was out cold before the sun sank below the trees. Not too shabby.

When you’re taking a ferry boat to an island you’ve never been to that’s 60 miles away and the boat may or may not leave port on time (or at all) due to weather and may or may not travel at the ideal speed, again usually involving weather then it’s typically considered prudent to plan for less than a full day’s mileage on your day of arrival.  Nobody wants to start out behind schedule, especially when that schedule necessarily includes being back at the designated location at the specified time in order to not miss the opportunity to get back on the boat when it’s time to go home.  Swim 60 miles?  No thanks.  Swim 60 miles in Lake Superior?   Not a chance.  My trip was planned to arrive on the 15th, and depart on the 26th.  The last trip of the season that the Isle Royale Queen IV had on the books for 2014 was for the 29th.  In other words I had one extra chance to catch the boat back if I missed my scheduled return date.  NOT something I wanted to even consider.

The point of all this rambling is that even though I am (or perhaps because I am) an experienced hiker I did not want to risk getting behind schedule.  So my itinerary was constructed with few enough miles each day that I should not get behind schedule such that I wouldn’t be able to recover and be back at the dock to meet the boat easily.

When the boat docked all passengers disembarked and we were promptly herded by park rangers into one of two groups: day visitors and overnight visitors.  Our group (overnight) was given a friendly but serious mandate regarding LNT ( principles, instructions on how we needed to register and a stern warning about properly filtering all consumed water due to Echinococcus Granulosus.


Echinodawho? Granudawha? 

It’s a moose tapeworm.  Normal life cycle of this parasite is a cyclical transfer between moose (secondary carrier) and wolves(primary carrier).  Wolf eats infected moose tissue.  Wolf becomes infected with intestinal tapeworms.  Wolf poops (boy, do they poop a lot) tapeworm eggs which can lay dormant for extended periods of time and are eventually ingested along with a mouthful of vegetation (or water) by a moose.  Moose develops cysts in its tissues, just waiting to be consumed by a wolf.  The circle of life.  If you’re a tapeworm of that particular genetic specialization.

The problem for humans is that these tapeworm eggs can and regularly do get washed into lakes and if a human ingests the eggs then we get cysts.  In fabulous places.  Usually the lungs or brain.  But possibly anywhere including places like your bones.  If detected before becoming fatal the cysts can be surgically removed.  OR you can filter your water.  Steripen?  Forget it.  May as well go lick a wolf’s butt because UV doesn’t kill the eggs.  Got yourself some chlorine or iodine?  Nuh-huh.  Gonna get cysts if you don’t filter.  Tapeworms gonna get ya.   Better filter.

After our death threats via wolf poop, we lined up in the dockside ranger office and registered our individual itineraries. When I finished giving the ranger my list of sites he declared that I would see more of the isle than he has in 3 years.  Yeah, I felt a warm tingle about that.

My registered itinerary declared my first campsite to be at Threemile, appropriately named because it is 3 miles from Rock Harbor.  (It’s fine with the park service if you don’t follow the itinerary but it sure helps them know where to look if you turn up missing).  I proceeded along the Rock Harbor trail, again, appropriately named since it runs along the shore of Rock Harbor (you may detect a subtle pattern here) and stopped about halfway to Threemile to take a brief side jaunt to see  Suzy’s Cave.   Suzy’s Cave is a sea cave which was formed by waves when Lake Superior water level was higher and is named for Suzy Tooker.  Her father owned nearby Tooker Island and while summering there she would often row over to play in the cave.  It’s a shallow cave and open all the way through.  I went around back and crawled out the front.  Thus having conquered Suzy’s Cave I proceeded towards Threemile.



Arriving at Threemile still early in the day I took a short break.   I removed my shoes (only broken in a tiny bit since I got them new a week ago) and rubbed my feet.  Then I went and christened the privy, only to discover that many had been there before me.

Feeling refreshed I decided to move along.  I hitched my pack onto my back and proceeded to Daisy Farm.  Guess how it got named?   Lots of daisies supposedly grow there – I didn’t see any.  Guess June us probably the time to see them.  I found myself a tent site and got set up.  I was the unhappy recipient of light rain showers as I proceeded. 

I need to talk about the camping options at the sites for a bit.  Unless you obtain a backcountry permit you are expected to avail yourself of the established campsites around the isle. There are from 1 to 3 different camping options to choose from at the campsites.  At the most basic locations (inland, hard to bring in material) one may find only individual tent sites.  At the most developed locations one may find individual tent sites, group tent sites, and shelters.  Every shelter that I saw had a screen enclosure on the front to help keep vermin out.  All sites have a privy.  I found 3 different privies to be stocked with toilet paper – a huge luxury.  Any site that has shelters and many that do not also have picnic tables.  Again, a huge and very welcome luxury that I did not expect.  Almost every site has excellent access to a water source as well.

I looked at the shelters (several were empty and I estimated one would hold 6-8 campers and went to site 17 and set up my tent.  I had a picnic table but the site was quite secluded and quiet.   I was able, with small difficulty, to fill my water bladder from Lake Superior.   The lake is very clear and cold.  Tastes pretty good, too.  By 17:00 I was cooking dinner.  I had a Mt. House Beef Stew and it was pretty good.  I was settled in for bed by 18:30, which is when the daylight was fading fast.


You may be asking why I chose to tent when there were open shelters.  Plain and simple, tenting is often more comfortable.   It’s always more private.  When the mercury falls and cold temps abide it’s a warmer option as well.  And I felt like putting up the tent.  I’d been through a dry run at home but if there were going to be unforseen issues regarding the tent now was the best time to discover and remedy them.

At the end of my first day the mileage tally stood at a paltry 7.2 miles.  I skipped lunch because the concessions were closed.  My feet kind of hurt a bit and felt like I might be at risk of blisters on a longer day.  The weather was mostly favorable.  The highs were mid 50’s with lows in low 40’s which is great for hiking.  The rain showers were only present long enough to be a mild inconvenience.   I saw several types of common wildlife, including garter snakes which I did not expect.   I did more miles than planned and my supper tasted good.  I was pretty happy. 

I left home this morning at 2:15 and made it to Copper Harbor in about 3 hours.   Then I made a wrong turn and wasted a half hour driving out first one and then the other side of town trying to find the ferry.  There is no cell service.

However, Copper Harbor is reassuringly small and I am confident that I will discover the home of the Isle Royale Queen IV soon.  And I do.  There just isn’t that much town to hide behind and a pier does tend to be on the water.

After referring back to my directions I found the place and then located the Tamarack Inn where I ordered coffee, eggs, bacon and toast.  Hot coffee was fantastic as I was feeling chilled.  The jam served with the toast is clearly homemade as it is served in little open top containers.  It is strawberry, and scrumptious.  The paper table liner, whatever you call those things,  depicts the nature and rarity of bird’s eye maple.   With only two blocks to travel to the dock and a full belly I find myself looking forward to a nap on the ferry ride.

I park and have a decision making moment. I have in the past week called the concessionaire and lodge phone numbers at the island a half dozen times and never received an answer. I decide to not wear my civvies and change into my trail clothes. If anyone notices my briefly bare ass in the parking lot it passes without mention. I leave my blue jeans and other non-hiking clothes in the truck, not wanting to risk arriving on the island to a closed lodge and concessions. This entails
another worry: I have planned my meals with expectations of buying lunch today and lunch on the 7th day from the concessions at Rock Harbor and Windigo, respectively.

I shrug, lock up my truck and head for the pier. The sun is rising and I snap a pic with my phone.


I can stand to miss a meal here and there and worrying will not affect the situation except to reduce my enjoyment.

I go into the store and am issued my tickets to the isle and back and am given a refund for parking fees.  Any days after your 3rd are free but if you tell the booking tool on the website an accurate number – it charges you for all days anyway.  A lot of refunds are issued this morning;  both people ahead of me receive one as well.   

We are all bidden to line up and pass our luggage to the crew for stowing, minus any white gas fuel.  Luggage xan and does include canoes and kayaks (for a price). Canister fuel does not need to be removed from luggage.  Great.  I hand over my pack and bite my tongue when I see it hoisted by a single shoulder strap.

Capt. Ben is affable.  Marty and Mike are the mates, brave and sure.  The trip is ominously scheduled to be a 3 hour tour.   A 3 hour tour.

We depart the dock 20 min late.  Capt. Ben announces over the barely audible intercom that our estimate is now 3 hr 20 min for trip.  It is a 54 mile trip at the time of the announcement. 

I count around 60 people on board for trip and later hear that there are 62.  Go go gadget, math skills!  Kept my shoes on, too. There is a light NW wind.  I look up from the front deck and see an eagle soaring over the ship as we depart.  I do not sleep on the trip over.  Instead I talk to my booth-mate about the island and what we each plan to do there.  He is going fishing.  By trade he is an engineer and young enough that I mentally tag him as a kid even though he tells me that he and his wife plan to have a child in the next year or two.   We go over gear lists and I give him my thoughts about his selections, which sound perfectly adequate.  He is new to outdoor adventures but seems to have planned well for a beginner.   He overpacked, but then, who doesn’t at first?    I remind him several times that his goal is to have an enjoyable trip as I get the impression that he intends to catch tons of fish and measure his success in piscine poundage.

The ferry has snacks so I buy a bottle of water just in case there is nowhere to do so when we arrive.  A bottle is a wonderful tool to have.